Monday, May 2, 2011

The Path Less Traveled

what others want to know
i cannot tell them
what i can tell them
they do not want to know

Such is the nature of The Enigma.

To say I have persistent reservations about engaging the public - sight unseen, as it were - is an understatement. It's very tiresome, all of it. Now, if I wanted to play a role - guru, victim, intrepid reporter, spooky storyteller, chin-scratching intellectual - maybe it would be a different story. But as little old me? Can it ever really be worth it? For the person who thrives on public attention, and/or those who can wrangle a profit from it, maybe. But the answer - for the malcontent, the spoiler, the what the fuck are you lookin' at outsider - is a resounding "You have got to be fucking kidding me."

As the years pass, I become more comfortable with being myself. Less inclined to tell others what they wish to hear (not that I was ever any good at it), yet also increasingly disinclined to confront them with their avoidances and aversions. This means, despite having more to say, I say it less often and to fewer and fewer people. By this point, I'm almost surprised I'm not living in a small commune hidden in the mountains; the wandering, half-starved stranger taken in by begrudging monks. If those monks were ufology types, I shudder to think of my fate.

Last week, I ran across this post by Paul Kimball, the brainy documentarian behind Best Evidence: Top 10 UFO Sightings and his current project, Beyond Best Evidence: The UFO Enigma. Kimball states:
Anyone who travels along the "road" of the UFO phenomenon will sooner or later reach a fork, where they they will be faced with two choices.

The first is to follow the path of old information simply represented in a new way. George Adamski becomes Steven Greer, Aztec becomes Roswell, and Donald Keyhoe's conspiracy theories about the USAF become Stan Friedman's "Cosmic Watergate".

This is the easier path to choose, because you know where it will lead. You can follow it on a map. Comfortable and well-marked out, it winds its way to a small village inhabited by fellow travellers, kind of like a hobbit town from Lord of the Rings, with whom you can sit down, share a good meal, and tell some stories to each other. It's familiar, and has the siren call of certainty.

This path is all about finding a place to settle.

I'll let you in on a not-so-little secret: I don't know beans about Adamski or Aztec or Keyhoe, and what I know about Greer, Roswell and Friedman might, with enough injected air, fill a modestly sized cracker box. Sure, I know the plot points, but insofar as real study, I don't care. Now, I'm not saying these people and events are unworthy of study; only that I waste enough time on inconsequential bullshit, I'm hesitant to criticize others who may be doing the same. I am ambivalent about most subjects UFO aficionados take pleasure in dissecting - and quibbling over - ad nauseum. The degree of intellectual wankery, rank elitism, ingratiating smarm and relentless chest-beating - particularly by people who, by all appearances, show no sign of ever having even noticed the sky - is something I find very hard to stomach. Consider it a character flaw. It's a big rock in my shoe, and no matter how many times I stop and remove it, another one takes its place before I can finish tying my laces.

I say this only because there exists a widespread, if largely unspoken, assumption anyone who might self-identify as a contactee actually gives a shit about (a.) the personalities and events UFO types obsess over, and (b.) the myopic obsessives who focus on the celebrated personalities and events comprising the fatty tissue of the UFO enigma - they whose thumbs are uncorked from their their asses only for the purpose of signaling up or down on the validity of other people's experiences. It's a mistaken assumption.

But that's just me. Swaying the deniers, a group to which I have never belonged, has never been a personal priority or pastime, but I'm glad there are others who feel compelled to do so.  To the extent being honest about my experiences pierces static (and statist) belief systems which deny  cosmological intelligence(s) - and it has for a few people with whom I am personally acquainted - yay. If not, it takes nothing away from the experiences themselves, as they are mine and will forever remain so.

I don't know if the specifics of Paul Kimball's analogies are true, but the larger point stands with monolithic clarity: There is a finite amount of knowledge to be drawn from historical - and vicarious - analyses. And while such knowledge is likely far from exhausted, it is nonetheless limited in scope, as history, by definition - at least, as we process it - tends to be.

Kimball continues:
The second path is more difficult. It requires you to take a leap into the unknown, to embrace uncertainty, and seek out new information and new ideas. There is no map, no familiarity, and no promise of a comfortable resting place at the end of the road. But there is the possibility of so much more.

This path is all about a journey.

And therein lies the difference, because only by undertaking that journey can one ever really hope to arrive at the destination of true discovery.
I quite agree. The first path, if it can be said to be a path at all, is a tight circle; one where the masses gather and chatter. The second path - the one all about a journey - is an inner one propelled by a combination of objective and subjective experiences.

My response:
"The second path is more difficult. It requires you to take a leap into the unknown, to embrace uncertainty, and seek out new information and new ideas."
What is your plan for traversing this path? And, once undertaken, what constitutes success or progress?

These aren't rhetorical questions. I'm genuinely curious.

Ufology's freak show obsession with cults, including the all-consuming preoccupation with contemporary cults of personality, i.e. celebrity - whether it's Greer or Kaku or Vallée - in my meaningless opinion, accounts for a large degree of its willful retardation. Should you develop and share any insights derived as a result of direct experience (the latter being considerably more difficult than the former; neither being easy), the UFO Intelligentsia - an oxymoron if ever there was one - will reflexively file them in whatever dilapidated boxes comprise the prevailing paradigm, (or, perhaps, more accurately, non-paradigm). That's their role, and, if it isn't singular, it's damn close: rendering judgment on other people's experiences and interpretations. These are the folks who burned Bruno at the stake.

If achieving some degree of personal understanding is your primary objective, expect wonder, awe, experiences that don't translate well (or at all), and a fresh appreciation of the limitations of language.

If, on the other hand, achieving consensus is your bag, you're in for an extremely rude awakening.

And if your quest is 50/50, that falls under the rubric of "having one's cake and eating it, too." Bon appétit!

In any case - and with all sincerity - good luck in your mission. May your experiences be many and profound.
I was, and remain, curious about how Mr. Kimball envisions this second path. Maybe he doesn't, which wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing. I can only guess since he hasn't responded.

My curiosity stems, in large part, from an awareness that, while The Enigma is transpersonal, at least some of its manifestations present themselves in an intensely personal fashion. This is the contrivance aspect of The Engima, which I believe is The Trickster element found throughout human history in numerous cultures, and is often associated with UFO experiences even today. Expectations may or may not effect (yes, effect with an e) experience, but the color of experience is influenced by personal expectation.

That's why I asked those two questions, and I present them here to you, whomever you are. It is a question worth considering, and answering, if at all possible, should you consider pursuing The Second Path.  Or, if, like me, you are on it now.


Paul Kimball said...

Hi Arvin,

Always good to see that something I've written or said inspires / provokes a response. Social media is at its best when it creates dialogue.

To me, the "second path" is more of a personal journey of discovery, and in many respects a more subjective and perhaps even experiential way of looking at things. It requires an open mind, but not so open, as the saying goes, that your brain falls out. I still believe that the methodology of science is critical, but as it is applied to our own search for the truth / answers.

In short, my interest lies in convincing people of the need to look, as opposed to showing them what has been supposedly found.

If that makes any sense!

All the best
Paul Kimball

C.J. Sully said...

Contemporary Cults of Personality...Hmmm...I hadn't looked at it like that before. But that's kind of what it is. You make some great points in this post. I would like to hope I'm of the group that seeks Personal Understanding--but I can apply that to just about every other area of my life, too.

Arvin Hill said...

Paul, welcome to Skyward.

I'm surprised - or, at least, in the wake of my abrupt introduction to ufology, was surprised - and disappointed by how few people are interested in dialogue. All too often, reading the to-and-fro between tribes is like sitting through a high school debate. Points are scored, scalps are taken and each party goes home smugly self-satisfied or shaking their fist in frustration. I can defend my points of view well enough - a skill developed from reading thousands of depositions when I ran a small legal support business in the late 80s and early 90s - but without a client, verdict or settlement, I find little pleasure in it. The exception is when I'm engaged in a good faith exchange, which, for me, is predicated on a modicum of humility for all involved... except me. Ha! I have no problem admitting it periodically requires some effort, as my personality leans heavily toward advocacy, and, I'm sometimes embarrassed to say, polemics - though, hopefully, not at the expense of inquiry. I blame it on the rock & roll.

"Experiential way of looking at things." I like that. "Experience" was, as I perceived it, the missing word in your original post; one alluded to, but not expressly stated. So I'm glad to see it here. I'm of the opinion Science has yet to give subjectivity its due, but I see progress on that front, however slight and incremental, with quantum & neurocognitive sciences being the icebreakers.

As my experiences with UFOs began accumulating at a whiplash speed in 2008, the door to my open mind went from being slightly ajar to blown off its hinges. It took a couple of tumultuous years to really get my feet back on the ground. In the interim, I had to retrieve my open mind from the ground more than once. But, that, too, was just another part of the maturation process, one which many people wrongly, yet, understandably, confuse with indoctrination. I don't particularly enjoy falling flat on my face, but The Path Less Traveled is neither landscaped nor without very real hazards, and I learn from each hole I inadvertently step in. Besides, not only is it a beautiful path, but, as our current state of global affairs illustrates all too well, the only thing more dangerous is stasis.

Mi casa, su casa. We share a prickly bastard side, you & I, but I promise not to take any spirited conversations too personally. You'll always find a fresh kettle and comfortable chair here.

Arvin Hill said...

C.J.: Thank you for your kind words. They are always appreciated.

"I would like to hope I'm of the group that seeks Personal Understanding--but I can apply that to just about every other area of my life, too."

The snare is always the belief personal understanding can be expressed and related as is; that experience itself is directly translatable. By saying "but I can apply that to just about every other area of my life, too,", you demonstrate an intrinsic understanding many people - including those with considerable enigmatic engagements - repeatedly fail to grasp; sometimes, with tragic consequences. To which I can only say Brava!

C.J. Sully said...

Well, thanks!